By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA – Freddie Freeman hit a decisive home run against Milwaukee closest Josh Hader with two strikeouts in the eighth inning and the Atlanta Braves advanced to the NL Championship Series for the second year in a row, finishing the Brewers, 5 -4, Tuesday night.
The Braves won the best of five NLDS games three to one, qualifying to face the San Francisco Giants at 107 wins or the Dodgers at 106 with a World Series trip in play.
The score was tied, 4-4, when the Brewers called on Hader to make sure it stays that way. The relentless southpaw knocked out Eddie Rosario and Dansby Swanson, but he couldn’t get past the NL’s 2020 MVP.
Freeman caught up to an 84 mph slider, throwing a 428-foot workout into the center-left seats – only the fourth circuit of the entire season outside of Hader, and the first since July 28.
âThe first two guys fell, so I just tried to go up a pitch and he hooked a slider and put a good swing on it,â said Freeman, an El Modena High product. “There was no rhyme or reason for it.”
Freeman wildly celebrated his way around the bases and stepped out of the dugout for an encore as the crowd of 40,195 people roared. He became the first player in franchise history to hit a home run in the eighth inning or later in a decisive series victory, ESPN Stats & Info said.
âWhen Freddie hit that ball, I mean I lost my balance. Everyone in the dugout was going crazy,â said teammate Ozzie Albies.
Will Smith threw a ninth scoreless goal for his third straight save in the series, forcing Christian Yelich to watch the third strike with a runner first for the final out. Tyler Matzek took the win with a perfect eighth.
âFred-die! Fred-die! Fred-die! The crowd chanted as the Braves celebrated in the middle of the field.
Despite fewer wins (88) than any other playoff team – and even two teams that didn’t make the playoffs – the NL East champion Braves return to the NLCS for second consecutive season.
They are hoping to complete the job they came so close to doing a year ago when they lost a 3-1 series lead and lost in Game 7 to eventual World Series champion Dodgers. .
Atlanta hasn’t competed in the World Series since 1999.
âWe feel really good about ourselves in the second half, playing really good baseball. We carried it over to the playoffs, âFreeman said.
After the Braves and Brewers combined just nine runs in the first 30 innings of the series, the offenses suddenly came to life in the fourth.
NL champion Central Brewers touched home for the first time since Game 1, securing RBI singles from Omar NarvÃ¡ez and Lorenzo Cain to end a 22-innings goalless streak. NarvÃ¡ez’s hit also shattered a 0 for 20 performance by Milwaukee (95 wins) with runners in scoring position in the series.
But the Braves bounced back in the bottom half, although Milwaukee may have taken a huge break on a deflected foul pop-up that was ruled as a catch even though it appeared to touch dirt. Pinch hitter Eddie Rosario had a single with two outs and two runs down center.
Milwaukee took another lead in fifth, this time on Rowdy Tellez’s second two-run homer in the series. His debut, long ago in Game 7 inning, had produced the only points in the Brewers’ series until Tuesday. This second shot from Huascar Ynoa was a massive shot, falling into the fountain beyond the center field wall.
The Braves returned, scoring another brace in their own half. Joc Pederson scored one with a forced out and Travis d’Arnaud delivered a single with two right outs to bring another home.
Building on three days off, Charlie Morton only lasted 3-1 / 3 innings for the Braves. He allowed four hits and was charged with Milwaukee’s first two runs.
The Brewers decided not to use ace Corbin Burnes, who won over Morton in Game 1. He was ready to play in Game 5 in Milwaukee.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, they won’t play again until 2022.
âWe are all really disappointed,â said manager Craig Counsell. âIn the end, we had big goals. We haven’t quite got there. But we won 95 games. It’s a special group. They did some special things.
Eric Lauer made his first appearance on the show, but he didn’t go much further than Morton. He played 3-2 / 3 innings, also recording two runs on four hits.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
The Braves might have had a bigger inning in the fourth if it weren’t for what appeared to be a missed call on Adam Duvall’s pop-up.
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker tried to challenge, but referees told him that only flying balls and inline practices to an outfielder are subject to video review.
Things got really messy when the dashboard proclaimed the call âcanceledâ, but it was operator error.
The call was upheld, although a replay appeared to show the ball bouncing off NarvÃ¡ez’s receiver glove and barely touching the ground just before third baseman Luis Urias grabbed the deflection.
Braves right fielder and first forward Jorge Soler was pulled from the roster shortly before the game after testing positive for COVID-19.
Outfielder Cristian Pache took Soler’s place in the 26-player roster.
Soler was replaced at the head of the order by Swanson. Pederson, who was supposed to start in left field, moved to the right. Guillermo Heredia was inserted into center field, eighth at bat, and Duvall moved from center to left.
Soler was among the players acquired before the trade deadline as the Braves completely rebuilt their starting outfield. He hit a .223 combined with 27 homers and 70 RBIs with Kansas City and Atlanta during the regular season.
Soler only had one hit in 11 batting appearances in the first three games against the Brewers.
The Braves open the NLCS on Saturday, with Max Fried (Harvard-Westlake High) ready to start. If the Giants beat the Dodgers, the series would begin in San Francisco. If the Dodgers win, the first two games would be in Atlanta.